Remembrance. This is an important part of the High Holy Day experience. Recall that of the many names for Rosh Hashanah, one of them is Yom Hazikaron, the day of Remembrance, which primarily has to do with the assurance that G-d remembers us. Another aspect of remembrance during the Days of Awe is the observance of Yizkor on Yom Kippur day. Yizkor is a memorial service for loved ones we’ve lost, observed four times during the Jewish calendar (Yom Kippur, Passover, Shavuot, and Shemini Atzeret).
By its very nature and structure, Yizkor requires us to be together in our remembering. It is as much for the mourner as it is for the rest of the community. Giving and receiving support. This is what community is. This is what community does. We cannot, and should not, remember alone. It is in the collective observance that we raise the neshamot (souls) of our loved ones, keeping their memory alive and pulsing.
I urge us all to think about this as Yom Kippur approaches. Even if we don’t have anyone we are remembering at this time of year, we can provide a loving, comforting presence for those who are. We place those who mourn and grieve at the center. In collective support we surround them. Together we cherish ancestral memory and elevate the names of those we remember.
With this in mind, I’d like to share a Yizkor reflection by Rabbi Menachem Creditor.
Yizkor and Joy: An Intention
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Yizkor is not the initial Kaddish, nor is it only for one annual recitation, nor is it the Yahrzeit, which is bound up in the particulars of my loved one. Yizkor is, by definition communal, scheduled on days that contain elements of joy, and ongoing.
Perhaps, eventually, it’s like saying, “Well, here we are again. It’s been a while,” with an old friend, who - if we are blessed - our ancestors eventually become. The process of Yizkor provides a regular opportunity to let some of the complexities of this-worldly relationships melt away, so that – eventually – all that is left is light, all that’s left is love. This deep kind of joy, more aptly described as settledness or peace - is made more possible by the processing of loss and grief, of returning for a moment at sacred intervals.
May our ancestors be blessed.
So too, may we.